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A Brief History of MS SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server is one of the best database management systems in the world. It’s constantly improved and widely used. But do you know how it was created?

In this article, I’ll show you the history of MS SQL Server, a solution that changed the world of databases. We’ll explore the stages of MS SQL Server development, find out how the current version differs from the original, and talk about where you can learn or practice SQL Server.

If you are beginning (or continuing) your adventure with MS SQL Server, it's worth knowing where it all started!

What Is MS SQL Server?

Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) with a long history and a whole lot of updates introduced over the years. The current version is 15.0 – it's really the 17th version, but SQL Server versions 1996 and 1999 are not considered full versions.

The initial release of MS SQL took place in 1989, so the process of evolution of MS SQL Server has taken 32 years (and counting). You may think this makes SQL Server outdated, but let me undeceive you: This is one of the best supported and most popular RDBMSs on the market.

Since SQL Server has been widely used for so many years, you don’t need to be told that it’s great software. The numbers speak for themselves, as does the amount of job openings that require a knowledge of MS SQL Server. You should learn MS SQL if you are interested in database management or if you’d like to pursue another data-focused career. Without MS SQL Server, working with data can be difficult. It’s a mature product with a well-established position on the market. And it’s used by the world's largest companies!

One reason SQL Server is so popular has to do with its maker, Microsoft. When MS SQL Server was in the development stage, Microsoft was already a tech giant. As a promising and largely more customizable application, it’s not surprising that MS SQL Server became such a popular way to store data. It was functional and made managing data easier, even in large quantities.

Today, SQL Server comes with different editions for different needs (e.g. on cloud, on premises, for developers, or for small projects). Some editions are free. Microsoft, as befits an IT giant, has great customer service and can guide you in choosing the right edition for your needs.

What Makes SQL Server Different from Other DBMSs?

MS SQL Server competes with many database management systems (DBMSs). SQL Server is distinguished primarily by its wide range of tools and applications that facilitate working with data. Its extensive GUI (graphical user interface) enables easy and intuitive work with the database as well as allowing you to generate statistics for reports.

Because SQL Server is created, distributed, and developed by Microsoft, is one of the best supported solutions on the market. Its customer service is very professional. You can count on help with any problematic issues you face. Server’s global user community, where you can look for solutions to practical problems, is another huge plus.

When you work with MS SQL Server, you communicate with the database using T-SQL (transactional SQL). This language is slightly different from standard SQL – it has a few extra phrases and the syntax has some small changes. If you know standard SQL, T-SQL won’t be any problem for you; you can always refer to SQL Server’s documentation for minor differences.

MS SQL Server’s History and Evolution

Timeline MS SQL Server

The launch of MS SQL Server was supposed to change database management systems once and for all. Its development was continually supported. At the time, Microsoft was an icon of modernity, stability, and innovation. All this together made SQL Server’s reception very positive.

The evolution of MS SQL Server started in 1988, when Microsoft joined forces with Ashton-Tate and Sybase. The goal was to develop database creation and maintenance software that would provide an impulse to Microsoft's business database market.

SQL Server 1.0 was launched in 1989. At that time, it used the System Administrator Facility (SAF) to create databases. It had no documentation, but users could set parameters and run SQL queries. The first code for Microsoft was created by Sybase.

History MS SQL Server 1989

Version 4.2 premiered in 1993. This was the first version of MS SQL Server that featured a Windows graphical user interface. We don't know why version 4.2 wasn't preceded by 2.x or 3.x versions – probably for the same reason that we got Windows 7 after Windows Vista. A significant difference from its predecessor was that SQL Server 4.2 supported Windows NT and OS/2 (IBM-Microsoft OS). That year, Sybase and Microsoft parted ways and have since pursued their own product and marketing concepts separately. Microsoft negotiated exclusive rights to all editions of SQL Server written for Microsoft, so that there was no confusion about the manufacturer.

SQL Server 6.0, also known as SQL95, was released in 1995. It was a very fresh and modern product and provided a new, very important feature – replication.

SQL Server 7.0 (1998) was largely a rewritten code for an older engine created by Sybase and purchased from them by Microsoft, which allowed Microsoft to gain full control over the product. This release included new tools like Query Analyzer, which could quickly show comprehensive info about SQL Server's processor. A new graphical interface and administrative wizards allowed for the easy and enjoyable creation of tables and indexes, replication, backup scheduling, etc. This version was the most important version of SQL Server since Microsoft entered the corporate database world. It was intended to be more scalable, much more efficient, and easier to use. SQL Server 7.0 also introduced SQL OLAP Services (which became Analysis Services in the next version).

SQL Server 2000 8.0 included even more modifications and code base additions. This version boasted improved performance and introduced T-SQL enhancements (e.g. table variables, indexed views, triggers, or user-defined functions) for greater functionality. XML and HTTP support, performance and accessibility features for loading partitions, and advanced management features for automating database work were also introduced in this version.

SQL Server 2005 9.0 ("Yukon") brought native support for XML data management in addition to relational data handling. It also enabled Internet-based provisioning of the database server using TDS (Tabular Data Stream). This version had greatly improved security; compared to the first version of MS SQL Server, it can be considered ultra-technology.

SQL Server 2008 10.0 introduced backup compression and the ability to track changes to databases via change data capture (CDC). It allowed the storage of various types of data, from email and calendars to documents and XML files. Microsoft once again simplified database management and improved software performance, making working with data much easier and more intuitive.

History MS SQL Server 2012

The next version was SQL Server 2012 11.0, nicknamed “Denali”. Cluster instance and group availability was introduced, making moving data between instances much easier. Plus, the interface became even more accessible.

SQL Server 2014 12.0 introduced a new table feature that can fit entirely in memory, regardless of its size. Another performance improvement was made by caching between RAM and external drivers. As data became more readable and detailed, Microsoft added the ability to back up data to Azure.

SQL Server 2016 13.0 introduced PolyBase support, which gives the administrator the ability to query CSV data or data stored in Azure or HDInsight. Once again, data security was improved by the implementation of the "Always encrypted" function. Developers could build intelligent applications using scalable hybrid DBMS.

SQL Server 2017 14.0 "Helsinki" was another step forward. This version gave administrators the ability to choose development languages and data types by integrating SQL Server with Linux.

History MS SQL Server 2019

SQL Server 2019 is the latest edition offered by Microsoft. Its functionalities are simply WOW! It’s one of the most developed database management tools and includes all the features mentioned above – it’s even more intuitive to use and provides very detailed information. It includes the Big Data Clusters option, which allows users to work with giant data sets (i.e. those obtained through artificial intelligence or machine learning). It's a powerful tool that lets you work comprehensively with your data and get all the data you want. It's justly called an Intelligent Database, with even better performance and scalability than the previous versions.

So that’s it – a brief overview of SQL Server’s history! You know the evolution of MS SQL Server and what has changed over the years.

You may get the impression that MS SQL has no disadvantages. It has, just like any piece of software. Much depends on the user experience. In this article, you will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of Microsoft SQL Server.

Why Should You Learn MS SQL Server?

There’s a thousand reasons to learn MS SQL, starting with self-development and ending with financial stability. And who among us wouldn't want to stop worrying about cash? But let’s consider a few additional advantages.

MS SQL Server  is continuously supported and up to date. Microsoft's established position in the market has won the hearts of their audience. SQL Server is stable, trustworthy, and reliable.

Knowing Microsoft SQL Server can help you in the job market. With such a skill in your resume, you will impress companies searching for specialists. SQL Server is used in many globally known companies. Your passion for working with databases and your ability to analyze their data will give you an advantage.

Data is the future. Data defines today's world and it’s the foundation of an effective business. By learning about the evolution of MS SQL Server, you have gained a picture of how database management has also evolved. Learning SQL is not difficult and can be a good start to your journey towards IT.

Where to Learn SQL Server

To learn MS SQL Server, you can simply install it yourself and practice writing your own queries. Installation is easy and fast; my colleague Dorota meticulously described the process in her article. However, for many beginners such a scenario may be too difficult. If you don't know the basics, you won't even know where to start. Don’t worry – there are much better solutions.

You can learn MS SQL Server with us. We will guide you through MS SQL Server from scratch so that you can understand basic concepts. All our courses are fully interactive and come with expert help if you need it. Thanks to our online console, you will not only learn concepts, but you will immediately put them into practice by solving realistic problems and writing your own queries. We believe that hands-on experience is the only sure way to learn any skill. Practice makes perfect, including for T-SQL and MS SQL Server.

MS SQL Server course

You can choose to go all-in and do our SQL from A to Z in MS SQL Server track, which will guide you from complete beginner to advanced SQL user. Or you can start with our SQL Basics course and see how easy it is to learn this language.

I hope I managed to convince you that learning MS SQL Server is a great idea. This is a guarantee not only of a better job and higher earnings, but also of a new, interesting career path. Learn, develop, and achieve your goals. We are here for you!